If you're a regular reader of this blog, you may have gathered that I have a slight interest in records. As I was listening to one last week, I realised that I'd never actually replaced the stylus of that particular record player. I'm all for authenticity, but that had been there since 1979.
Obviously I'm not going to start advocating tapes, they were naturally a bedfellow of vinyl, but their perfect union can be personified by two terms; 'The Mixtape' and 'Home taping is killing music.'
Let's look at the Mixtape. I know you remember them and no doubt a myriad of memories have started flooding back, and it was exactly the same for me. It was the personal touch, only your choice of tune, the perfect place for that song to sit and what it should follow. Whether you taped them off the radio or put your favourites together, it was the soundtrack of your choosing, and every one of those C90s embedded memories deep into your core. Everyone hears a song, and is then perplexed that the song they're expecting next doesn't come on. As that confusion builds, you're immersed in that time when you had played DJ with that song, and it's only when reality bumps into you, do you realise how much time has passed between you playing or making that tape and hearing that song again.
Whatever your viewpoint, these cassettes contained ninety glorious minutes of music that was either your choice, or lovingly made for you. The picture should tell you this, and I deem myself one of the luckiest man in the world to have these in my possession. Not only because I still own it seventeen years after it was recorded, but the time and effort put in by my best friend instantly highlights how much a person actually cares for you. I still have this over the countless birthday cards I have recycled.
Which brings me to the reason of why this blog was late. I have been playing tapes. But not just playing tapes.
I have (at the time of you reading this) seven hundred and ninety two albums in my collection, with a spattering of around a hundred singles. Let us concentrate on the albums. The range is incredibly eclectic, rather like some calamity has happened in a record shop and no one's cleaned up yet.
If you're reading this with one ear on Spotify, while I will be turning a kind blind eye (more on that in another blog) you will be laughing at how stupid a statement like that is, as you can certainly get way over the seven hundred and ninety two albums I have. But they're just the songs and that's my point. There's no album art, no mysterious sleeve notes to ponder over and most importantly, you're not listening to it as it is designed to be heard. This isn't necessarily to do with it being on vinyl, more about who is singing or playing, as it was their choice where that song should sit on the album; what it will sound fantastic to follow, or more importantly, what to begin with. You don't get any of that and have completely ignored the point of them making that record.
Everything is contextual so if it's buried in a play list or presented to you via a logarithm, then you're clearly not showing that singer or band the respect they are due. From the painstaking ponder over the exact words to say, to the gruelling sweat over nailing that chord. That's even before they recorded it.
I'm certainly not saying there's never any room for a playlist, but compared to the original home of that song, it's like telling Mr Holmes that you don't need a poo. Also, where's the Chase? Not the tv programme, but the actual hunting down of that record, where the hunter finally gets their game, whether its finally spotted in a dusty crate or excitedly unwrapped at Christmas. While my taste is incredibly wide, I'm a massive Sixties and Seventies freak, so I get to hunt properly; looking for musicians who could only record for Vinyl, who, when spotted entrapped and captured (most records come quietly) is played on the equipment of the time.
While I do have technology that goes past nineteen seventy eight (I don't write this with a quill) it really should sound like it was supposed to sound. Obviously with the records I like its been quite a few years since they were brand new, but no ones record collection is ever pristine, as we've all had that clumsy knock as we put it on or get up to skip the next one as it's too scratched. It's all part of your collection, and if you never experienced that, then I can only assume that you were the one that kept the box the toy came in.
It's all about the music, and can be perfectly summed up by John Peel's defence of Vinyl over CDs (remember them?). When challenged over the better quality, he said “Listen mate, life has surface noises.” These 'marks', whether on the record or the album's artwork, are the marks of lives left behind are what I love, whether it's the original owner's name or their insistence to rate each song and list its length (again, more on that in another blog)
I may have digressed a little, but essentially as I continue to refuel my passion, be it via dusty gem's plucked out of a box or the needle hitting a familiar favourite, it does nothing more than turn me into an anorak., of which I am immensely proud.
If you have a passion that no one understands, then congratulations (unless of course you're a serial killer) as you know what causes the endorphins to rush through the lesser travelled path. So come fellow anoraks, let us clutch at our toggles and raise high our flasks of tea.
It's a strange concept when we're told things are free. Firstly, we're led to believe that the best things in life are free, only to find out that these 'things' should be given to the birds and bees as it's money that people want. The problem is that money shouldn't be cared for as it can't buy you love, and everybody tells you so. Then of course there's the free lunch, which is naturally weird because as soon as you hear about it, you're told it doesn't exist. I could never figure out if it was like the Yeti. And if these 'free lunches' do happen under the premise of an assumed debt, what favour are my parents going to claim for the endless Nobbly Bobblies I devoured at Barry Island?
So what, in this 'Best things' category is truly free? To begin with, you're free, to do what you want, any old time. If I was to be serious for a minute, I would simply say that you just need to make yourself aware that these 'things' are out there, and with the right frame of mind, they'll stumble your way.
You'll be surprised what does. On holiday in Dorset, I regularly 'helped myself' to some fresh apples from a box marked with the same sentence. That same holiday, I got to 'Hitch Hike' for the first time, when a incredibly kind man answered my thumb (I believe that's the right term). This fine fellow was nice enough to bundle me and my girlfriend in his car and drive past his door to drop us off at our door. Not only did it relive our legs, but saved us from the storm that had started brewing.
More recently, I've been scouring the charity shops for photo frames. As you'll find out, along with the records, I also collect photographs of families I've never met. I love them as a little snapshot of time and, as I was rummaging through a box of heroin – sorry I should say, mixed bric a brac, I pulled out a frame. This frame fitted exactly a photograph I have been wanting to frame for quite some time. That probably sounds odd to the Ikea generation, but this frame was older than me, and the photo in question had been cut especially to fit this type of frame. It was free because I just put in my carrier bag. No, it was in a box marked 'free,' its price sticker crudely reduced to try and entice someone into taking it home. Nobody did, until I came along, as I was the right person to have it.
Even if you don't like to Womble a bargain or amble though the countryside, you obviously like to read. I'm assuming this as you got this far. Then keep your eyes open for the fairies. I was walking through central London recently and on the top of the button box for a pedestrian crossing, sat a book. It wasn't forgotten or misplaced, it was there as a gift, wrapped in ribbon and looking inviting. I glanced around to see if anyone had spotted it, looked again to see if it still existed, (I'd expected it to turn into a milkshake carton) and so I picked it up, eagerly eyeing the front until I could stop and study it more. It was donated by the Book fairies, a lovely group of random individuals who simply pass things on. I had no intention of reading this, but as I'd found it, I was obviously meant to, and like a kind fairy, passed it on.
So take off your headphones, discard any attention to your phone and have a look what you can see There's more to life than just a free voucher.